2008 in the Optative Theatrical Laboratories

It’s New Year’s Eve, so what better time to look back on the past year and the year ahead.  2008 was a busy one for OTL on several fronts:

Sinking Neptune II: We adapted our verbatim theatre critique of Canada’s “first play” Lescarbot’s Theatre of Neptune in New France and those remounting it, racism against Native peoples intact, for its 400th anniversary, to deal with another colonial celebration, the 400th anniversary of Quebec City.  We performed Sinking Neptune II twice at McGill University (including a show at the EGSS Conference), at CEGEP Montmorency in Laval, at the University of Guelph in Ontario and at the Maison de l’amitié as part of the infringement Festival.

rehearsal in Guelph (photo: Matthias Ersdorfer)

rehearsal in Guelph (photo: Matthias Elsdörfer)

Our run culminated at co-op bar L’AgitéE in Quebec City in July, where we performed to a receptive audience which included members of the alternative 400e.  This was following a day of culture-jams, first of the ceremony where the Canadian military was given the keys to the city and later at the official Rencontres show, celebrating Samuel de Champlain and ignoring the genocide he was responsible for.

Stage III of the project is in the early planning stages, to get involved, please contact neptune@optative.net

Culture-Jams: In addition to our jam of le 400e anniversaire de Québec, we were busy theatrically thwarting the monoculture in Montreal this year.

Along with Uberculture Concordia, we brought our Zeus, Aphrodite and Gaïa to the Gillette Venus booth set up at Concordia University, protesting both the takeover of university space for corporate interests and corporate co-option of feminist messages coupled with the reinforcement of  body image as part of their goddess grams campaign.

In partnership with Kinetic Aesthetic, we brought a sweatshop into a Wal-Mart and managed to keep our scene going for a good ten minutes, even when security physically removed the table that the two sewing machines were resting on and tried to kick us out.

jamming Wal-Mart

jamming Wal-Mart

In the lead-up to the federal election, we found out that Stephen Harper would be in town to give a speech.  We brought our own Harper along with a bunch of dissatisfied artists to the growing rally outside the Sandman Hotel.  In the scene, Harper stole from and generally attacked the artists, proving that art imitates life.

We also performed once again on Buy Nothing Day, this time sending Mr. Monopoly and his assistants out to four banks, the interconnected shopping malls that make up the underground city and the streets asking for some bailout money that he can use on the stock market.  Eventually, he realized that as long as people kept shopping, he’d get his money back anyways.

Not only did we do actions in Montreal and Quebec City, but we also managed to jam a Tim Hortons in Rimouski with the ZoPA.  While this is quite a bit of jamming, it doesn’t include the jams we did as part of our ongoing Reclaim The Main campaign.

Next year promises to be busier.  If you’d like to jam with OTL in 2009, please contact otl@optative.net

Reclaim The Main:
With all the corporate spam flooding The Main, a heritage site and the heart of the Plateau community, during street fests and all summer long on billboard trucks, we thought things couldn’t get much worse.  In 2008, they did.  A giant billboard appeared at the corner of St-Laurent and Sherbrooke over a building that was supposedly under construction.

This “scaffolding wrap” monstrosity, put up by a company called Time2Ad, was supposed to cover the building until renovations could be complete.  It managed to stay up most of the year.  The ad came down occasionally, once when some debris fell off the building, but mostly just to change it for another ad.  Eventually, after a large public outcry and media coverage, the ad finally came down, but the building underneath was untouched.  Surprise, surprise!  We even got an after-the fact letter from the Ville-Marie borough, basically telling us what we already knew.

unrenovated building on St-Laurent and Sherbrooke aftet the giant billboard was removed

unrenovated building on St-Laurent and Sherbrooke aftet the giant billboard was removed

Throughout the year, we challenged this ad and all the (sadly) now-usual corporate intrusions by starting petitions, contacting public officials, contacting the media and of course by culture-jamming.  PubPartout made a few appearances in “support” of all this corporate influence and we inspired others to take action as well.

As corporate spam on the Main doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, neither will Reclaim The Main.  If you’d like to get involved, please contact main@optative.net

Car Stories: Yes, this year we brought Montreal’s longest-running theatrical experiment back.  Car Stories, an interactive guided theatrical joyride through the Urban Wonderland for three spect-actors at a time was performed as part of  both the infringement Festival in June and les journées de la culture in September.

Car Stories during the Montreal infringement Festival (photo by Joanne Cosentino)

Car Stories during the Montreal infringement Festival (photo by Joanne Cosentino)

This year’s theme had the executives of a bottled water company sending a tainted peace offering to environmentalists with the help of the audience.  On their journey, they got a dental exam and danced in the alley with a couple of folks from down south, among other things.  This year’s show will be available in January 2009.

It’s never too early to start planning for the next edition.  If you’re interested, please contact carstories@optative.net

The infringement Festival: Although created by OTL, this event has truly taken on a life of its own.  For its fifth anniversary in Montreal, the festival ran almost the entire month of June and saw many theatrical, musical and street performances, not to mention culture-jams, visual arts shows, film screenings and spoken-word events, plus an increased Francophone portion.  The Buffalo infringement also ran its fourth edition this year and featured over 300 performances.

Plans are underway for the sixth Montreal edition, and the festival is currently looking for volunteer organizers and will be taking artist applications very soon.  For more, please visit the festival’s site.  Buffalo infringement is going into its fifth year and there is a new festival budding in Brooklyn, New York.  There’s even infringement TV on the horizon.  It’s still in test mode now, but will be broadcasting live very soon.

OTL Blog: We launched this blog back in November and it has been publishing consistently every Monday, Wednesday and Friday since then, with no plans of stopping or slowing down.  We’re even looking for more contributors to this and two other blogs.  If you’re interested, please contact media@infringementfestival.com

And now, the most important part of this message – a very happy new year to you and yours from Optative Theatrical Laboratories, see you in 2009 !!!

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